Sunday, May 16, 2004

When Seymour Hersh nailed Richard Perle for his clandestine profiteering, Perle called him a journalistic terrorist--which makes Hersh my journalistic freedom fighter. Since then, Hersh has been dogging Rumsfeld--critiquing our failure in Afghanistan, breaking the Abu Ghraib story and now putting Rummy right in the middle of the abuse mess. Anonymous military intelligence officers, piqued at taking the blame for following Rumsfeld's orders, told Hersh that the secretary of defense approved the physically abusive and sexually humiliating treatment at Abu Ghraib as a way of getting further information about what was behind the increased insurgency in Iraq last fall. Various officials are denying the truth of the report, calling it, for example, "pure, unadulterated fantasy."

It's hard to say how many Americans even care what we did or would blame Rumsfeld if Hersh's charges are true. For example, Bill McClellan, no right winger, wrote a column justifying torture--an attitude formed during his tour in Nam. Basically, he felt that when soldiers are in great danger, they'll do whatever it takes to find out the enemy's plans in hopes of protecting themselves. Lots of ordinary citizens would agree.

Oddly, though, professional interrogators would not. An AP article in the News Watch section of Sunday's Post-Dispatch, headlined "Torture is fruitless, say U.S. questioners", begins:

Sgt. Ken Weichert interrogated hundreds of Iraqis to gather wartime intelligence, but says only once did he raise his voice to extract information. . . .

Military interrogators say torture and other physical abuse are not only inhumane, they produce unreliable results. Prisoners may tell interrogators what they want to hear, rather than the truth, just to stop the abuse.
Indeed--especially if they're in the 70-90 percent of detainees who are not insurgents.

Weichert reckons that "It looks like the actions of immature kids that were pressured by higher command to get results."

Conservatives are fond of accusing liberals of "moral relativism." Now the shoe is on the other foot. I wonder if Bush's religious base feels pinched by the fit.


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